Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Fumio Ota

【#500(Special)】China’s “6 Belts, 3 Roads” Initiative

Fumio Ota / 2018.03.08 (Thu)

March 5, 2018

     Former Japanese Generals and Admiral participated in a BS Fuji TV program on the modernization of Chinese military on March 1. It was appropriate for the former Grand Self Defense Force General to make supplemental remarks that China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative illustrated on a map in the TV program has actually “Six Belts.” The six routes are (1) the Mongolia-Russia route, (2) the Central Asia-West Asia route, (3) the New Eurasian Land Bridge rail link, (4) the Indochina Peninsula corridor, (5) the corridor leading to Pakistan’s Gwadar Port and (6) the Myanmar-Bangladesh/India corridor.
     Regrettably, however, none of them explained that, as for the “Road,” there are two more maritime routes which Japan should seriously regard based on its national interests, in addition to the route from the Indian Ocean to Africa and the Mediterranean Sea shown on the map. One is the route to Oceania and the Southern Pacific (to be extended as far as to South America). The other is a route to Europe via the Arctic Ocean.

Vulnerability of the Arctic route
     Global warming has created a maritime route from China to Europe via the Arctic Ocean. While China does not face the Arctic Ocean, it has sent the Xue Long icebreaker to the Ocean six times since 1999. China also has constructed a new 8,000-ton icebreaker and China Coast Guard ships intruded Japan’s territorial waters in the Tsushima and Tsugaru Straits last year. We can understand the strategic significance of these developments against a backdrop of the Arctic route.
     The maritime route leading to Oceania and the Southern Pacific crosses the first island chain from Japan’s Southwest Islands to Taiwan and the Philippines. If China militarizes artificial islands in the South China Sea and control Japan’s SLOC (Sea Lines of Communications), Japan should develop detour routes. If Japan controls the Tsushima, Tsugaru and Soya Straits and the Southwest Islands, China’s Arctic route will have to circumvent Japan. Both Japan and China would thus be plagued with vulnerability.

No collaboration with China
     U.S. National Defense University Press published a book titled “The Paradox of Power: Sino-American Strategic Restraint in an Age of Vulnerability” in 2011. Its conclusion was, in short, the United States and China should collaborate with each other as they have strategic vulnerabilities in nuclear, space and cyberspace. While seven years have passed since the publication, China has given no sign of collaborating with the United States. Rather, it has apparently tried to enhance its capabilities to attack U.S. vulnerabilities and reduce its own vulnerabilities. Of the six Belts, the fourth to sixth ground routes are apparently designed to overcome the vulnerability of passage through the narrow Malacca Straits.
     Given that China has built a military base in the Northeastern African nation of Djibouti to secure the sea route from the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea and Chinese standoff with India in the Doklam region of the eastern Himalayan range last year to build the sixth ground route, it is clear that the “One Belt, One Road” initiative is designed to expand Chinese influence not only economically but also politically and militarily. China will have little intention to collaborate with any other countries including Japan.

Fumio Ota is a JINF Planning Committee Member and retired Vice Admiral of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force.